Blindsight: the strangest form of consciousness

Source: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150925-blindsight-the-strangest-form-of-consciousness

Some people who have lost their vision find a “second sight” taking over their eyes – an uncanny, subconscious sense that sheds light into the hidden depths of the human mind.

Daniel was adamant that he could not see a thing, yet somehow his unconscious mind was guiding him correctly”

The non-conscious mind acts as the puppet master, pulling the strings without their knowledge.

Some philosophers have gone as far as to claim that we could be little more than “zombies” acting on mostly unconscious impulses.

This, in turn, begins to cast doubt on some long-held assumptions about the very nature, and purpose, of consciousness. After all, it is by no means certain that other animals have a rich inner life like us, so it must have emerged for some reason. Previously, psychologists had proposed that we have a kind of “spotlight of attention” that sweeps over our vision, and when it lands on an object, the object pops into consciousness. In this way, our heightened awareness helps highlight the most important parts of a scene, giving us the chance to respond.

Except Robert Kentridge at the University of Durham has evidence to suggest this too may be wrong. His insight came when he was talking to a blindsight subject in between some of the basic visual tests, in which he flashed different images at different parts of the blind spot. The subject had said that he thought he would do better if we were told where, in the blind spot, the image would appear. “It seemed very strange,” says Kentridge – since they have no awareness of what is in their blind spots, they shouldn’t be able to focus their attention there. “It’s as if you were trying to direct attention around the back of head – you shouldn’t be able to do it,” he says.

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